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War and Slavery in Sudan.

War and Slavery in Sudan. By Jok Madut Jok. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. Pp. xv, 211. $55.00.)

By now, everyone who follows international news is aware of the long civil war between northern and southern Sudan. Slavery has recently been revived there, and some new abolitionist organizations have bought enslaved southern Sudanese to restore their freedom. Who can best explain the historical background of this situation, its current dynamics, and possible means to resolve it? One might think that an anthropologist who has spent considerable time in the area, has conducted over two hundred interviews with southern Sudanese, and is himself part of the Dinka diaspora would be the ideal guide.

Unfortunately, Jok Madut Jok does not lead his readers on any clear path to understanding and relies primarily on already published material instead of the interviews that he conducted in Dinka territory. His historical information on slavery in the Sudan is limited and jumbled, blaming Muhammad Ali of Egypt for its introduction on one page, the Europeans on another, and then doubling back to refer to the tribute in slaves required by a treaty between the earlier Christian kingdoms and Muslim invaders from Egypt. For comparative material on slavery, he should have consulted nineteenth-century primary sources, which discuss Baggara raids from southern Dar Fur and Kordofan on the Dinka, and recent histories of those regions.

As an anthropologist, Jok does not systematically disaggregate either the North or the South, though discerning readers will see that he should do so. This would differentiate the motives of the Khartoum government and the Baggara slave raiders. The Baggara did not join in the first round of the civil war, but, after droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, they moved south to Dinka territory for pasture for their surviving cattle and raided there for cattle and people to recoup their losses. The government exploited this old response to drought by arming the Baggara and returning to the rhetoric of jihad and Islamic solidarity. The Islamic government sought to weaken the Southern People's Liberation Army and Movement (SPLA/M) by opening a new front and to distract the Baggara from the loss of some of their traditional grazing land in Dar Fur and Kordofan provinces to mechanized agricultural schemes financed by government banks. Similarly, the immediate concerns of the Dinka subjected to slave raids differed from the goals of the SPLA/M and from the Dinka who sought refuge and work near Khartoum. These divisions are part of the payoff to those who foment slave raiding.

After describing how the Baggara and the government manipulated food relief to control enslaved Dinka, the author is still touchingly confident that paying hard currency to liberate slaves will have no negative consequences. He criticizes the international response to the revival of slavery, but he fails to see that the UN and other relief agencies have made the hard choice of tolerating slave raids in exchange for Khartoum's permission to feed some half million Dinka per year.

This important topic still awaits a clear exposition that is informed by oral information carefully collected and analyzed.

George Michael La Rue

Clarion University of Pennsylvania

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Author:La Rue, George Michael
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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